Coral, Zombies, And The Existential Crisis: It’s A Dull New Dawn For The Walking Dead

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Coral, Zombies, And The Existential Crisis It’s A Dull New Dawn For The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead has returned to our screens following the mid-season hiatus and I was greatly looking forward to it.

Not because this season has been particularly good thus far (it’s sucked royally, which is why I haven’t bothered posting weekly episode reviews), but because I was CERTAIN that a long-standing theory of mine was about to be vindicated.

I was actually really looking forward to writing this post and starting it with a lot of unnecessary drama and exclamation points:

VINDICATED!!!!!!!!!!!!

… Sorry, I haven’t been in the least bit vindicated, but I was really looking forward to typing it.

Instead my excitement was utterly banjaxed by yet-another-crappy-episode and Coral totally fucking up his own plot twist.

Nice one, Coral.

In case it wasn’t already evident, SPOILER WARNING! And for those of you who have somehow managed to get through eight seasons of the show without noticing that nobody in it can correctly pronounce the name ‘Carl’, you need to do a little catching up…

I know, right. Once you notice it you can’t unhear it.

Ever.

You’re welcome.

So what exactly did Coral do to screw everything up? Well, before we get to that it would probably help if I explained the theory in question…

The Carl Isn’t Going To Die Theory

I’m not going to claim I’m the only one to come to this particular conclusion, because a very brief Google tells me I’m not. But I would like to say this isn’t a theory I decided to follow after someone else suggested it, but one I reached on my own (as many other people did) while watching the show.

My version has three parts. The first two are commonly held theories in fandom. I’m not at all sure if anyone but me thinks the last part, because I actively avoid discussion boards and spoilers on the show. It’s entirely possible they have, but everyone I’ve explained it to thus far as given me a weird look and told me I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

Either way I was expecting to have a SOLID ANSWER one way or the other this week, instead…

Yeah.

I’m currently very unhappy with Coral.

Before going further I should also add that I’ve never read the comics (only because I don’t yet own the comics, I’ll get to them at some point), so any mention of the show in relation to the comics is based entirely on hearsay.

Ready?

Okay here goes…

Part 1: Rick Died In The First Episode

Like I said, there’s nothing original about this notion, but in order to understand just how badly Coral screwed the pooch, you need to know the whole story. And on the off-chance you’ve never thought/heard this one, it’s kinda pivotal.

In episode 1 we meet Rick when he wakes from a coma, discovers the world has ended and the dead have risen, and follow him around for awhile as we establish that his wife’s a bitch (sorry to all the Lori fans, but I hated her from the start), and Andrew Lincoln can pull off a decent American accent be he absolutely CANNOT say the name Carl.

We learn in later episodes, through flashbacks, that not only was Rick in a coma in the hospital, but at one point Shane tried to get him out and save him, only to find he was dead.

Yes, Shane is a colossal twat who later started banging Rick’s wife and tried to kill him, but he hadn’t done any of that yet. And say what you will about him, the guy was not unintelligent.

I choose to believe he’s capable of correctly determining whether or not he best friend is, in fact, breathing.

So Rick was definitely dead, even if only to the extent that he briefly stopped breathing.

The human brain can survive without oxygen for at least eight minutes.

Remember that, it’s important.

The whole ‘Rick died in the first episode’ theory actually explains quite a bit when you think about it, particularly how it is he was in a coma, deprived of all medical aid and sustenance, and rather than popping his clogs, Rick somehow managed to spontaneously wake up and pretty much instantly begin running around saving the world from the zombie apocalypse.

Seriously, you think about this for more than 5 seconds and realise it makes a hell of a lot more sense if Rick died, but didn’t stay dead.

Which leads me to…

Part 2: Rick Is Immune To The Zombie Virus, As Are Coral And Judith

Here’s where I seem to diverge from the rest of fandom in that everyone I mention this to screams at me:

Judith is SHANE’S!

But bear with me. I’ll get to that in a minute.

There are also a few ways we might argue Rick is actually some form of hybrid zombie-human, in that he died and was reanimated, but somehow retains his identity, functions like a living person, and (crucially) still heals when injurred.

These theories make absolutely no sense.

Aside from the whole ‘how do you explain him healing’ thing, at the end of season one he had all manner of tests run on him by Edwin Jenner, the crazy scientist who told him everyone carried the virus.

The notion that the virus somehow mutated in him and brought him back to life rather than death has a little more merit, but if that were the case you would think the guy who had been studying it would have noticed.

My personal explanation is that Rick is actually immune to the virus. He carries it, as everyone else does, and it activated when his body started to shut down as a result of the coma. BUT, because he hadn’t experience brain death at this point, he reacted like a living person would to being bitten.

The zombie virus activate his immune system, which actually fought it off and, in so doing, jump-started Rick’s recovery, allowing him to wake up from his coma and be pretty much fine.

We know people react to a zombie bite as they would a particularly nasty illness, and the length of time it takes people to turn after being bitten varies greatly, because some people have stronger immune systems than others.

So the human immune system is capable of fighting the zombie virus, it just never wins.

My theory has always been that Rick possesses a natural immunity to the virus, and was able to fight it off. Because he was still in a coma at the time he has no recollection of this and thus no idea, meaning the only way he’d find out is if he was bitten and went through the whole process again while conscious.

If Rick carries a natural immunity it stands to reason that Carl could have inherited it, and so could Judith.

Which bring me back to the whole Shane issue.

Before you all lynch me for not knowing Shane is Judith’s dad, it’s not that I’m unaware of it, it simply doesn’t make any sense from a narrative perspective.

We don’t actually KNOW that is the case. Yes, it was always a strong possibility, yes, Rick at one point stated that he knew it was true, but he doesn’t actually KNOW and neither do we.

Unless they find a paternity test and a functional DNA lab we’ll never be sure.

Which means (if I’m right) that Rick, Coral and Judith are all immune and potentially hold the key to saving the world.

Leading me to…

Part 3: The Series Is About To Take A Huge Detour From The Comics

Like I said, I’ve not read the comics. But know enough to have a rough idea of where things head from this point in them onwards. The mid-season finale served us a huge and very unexpected twist when it was revealed Coral had received a torso bite and was imminently about to die.

This doesn’t happen in the comics. In fact, another long-standing fan theory is that the whole of The Walking Dead is told from Carl’s perspective as he looks back on events as an old man. This is why the comics are so focused on Rick, and always show his actions in the best possible light (the rose-tinted view of his son).

I have  no idea if this is the case or not, but the series has never hinted at it, and in fact has presented the story quite differently in that while Rick is a very major character, it’s always been an ensemble cast from multiple perspectives, which vastly exceed the views of Rick and his son.

A short while before the season eight mid-season cliffhanger, Rick caught sight of a helicopter passing overhead, something that hasn’t happened since he saw one in Atlanta in season 1, just before meeting Glenn.

(Okay, technically there was a helicopter in season 3…but it crashed. And another in season 4…which had also crashed, and this time long before the episode. AND technically there was another in season 7, but this may very well have been a production snafooo, it’s not entirely clear if it was intentional, and Rick certainly doesn’t look at it or react to it in any way.)

Honestly it was the helicopter in season 8 the solidified this whole suspicion in my mind.

My theory was that they were about to discover an arm of the military still existed which was working on a cure. Carl’s bite would coincide with them running into these guys (presumably as they tried a desperate last-ditch bid to save him by going to a hospital or something), who would realise at the point Carl didn’t die, that he was actually immune.

This would lead to a lot of unfortunate kidnapping and testing, and the narrative would shift from the rather worn out Saviours plot (of which the only good thing is Negan) and return to the moral dilemmas and ACTUAL ZOMBIE ACTION of the early seasons.

Judith is kind of crucial here because there is little more irritating that having kids who do nothing in a show. Carl was old enough to be active from the start, and even he was problematic in the first couple of seasons because all he ever did was get in trouble and perpetually need saving.

Judith has likewise been a non-entity on the show for the most part, her most important contribution happening when she was born and finally put us out of our misery by killing Lori.

Thanks, kid, we really owe you for that!

With Maggie now pregnant the possibility of having very young kids on the show is growing stronger, and it’s something they have to find a way to deal with.

As I understand it the comics did this by skipping ahead several years, aging up Judith, and Maggie and Glenn’s baby quite a bit.

And that would certainly help, but Judith would still be a very young child who needed saving a lot.

This is very borning to watch.

Far more interesting would be the prospect that Judith was actually the key to curing the outbreak, giving us a damn good reason for her to be perpetually in danger, and the source of that danger to be the people who were supposedly trying to help.

This would open up a huge range of possibilities for the show, without actually preventing any of the developments that come in the comic from happening in tandem, or later down the line.

And given the decidedly lack-lustre run the series has had for the last couple of seasons, it’s desperately in need of a new lease of life (no pun intended).

It occurred to me that the military becoming the enemy that actually united Rick and the Saviours while they all struggled with the moral implications of a potential cure that came at the expense of killing children would be really interesting, and very much in keeping with the themes of the show.

After all, Negan has already shown a real soft spot for both Carl and Judith, and it’s established he’s trying to knock up his wives, indicating he wants children of his won.

I can’t see him taking kindly to the notion of someone killing children. Especially when he actually like the new world order.

The zombies don’t bother him in the least. They’re the reason he has an empire and god knows how many wives!

It’s also well established that the show is NOT like your typical zombie story in that it has never explored the origins of the outbreak, and never intended to, nor was the goal of the group or the show ever to ‘save the world’.

Just to save each other.

The only time ending the outbreak has even been mentioned as a possibility was at the end of season 1 (when the guy who might have done it blew himself up instead, realising it was totally pointless), and Eugene’s lie that he knew the cure and could save everyone if only he could get to Washington.

So introducing the possibility of both an explanation and a cure, but in a deeply twisted, dark and negative way, that turned out to be the new enemy that needed fighting is something I can totally see the show doing.

After all, the zombies themselves are less and less of a threat.

They’re slower and less effective every year, as the majority of them were turned in the initial outbreak or the immediate chaos that followed, and have been steadily decomposing since.

At some point, they will rot away to nothing leaving only those turned more recently. And while that would still be a problem, everyone’s got really good at killing them in the intervening years, as well as putting down the newly dead so they don’t turn or remain a threat.

Which brings us back to Coral.

Way To Fuck Up Your Own Death, Coral

In the latest episode, ‘Honour’ (or ‘Honor’ if you want to be American about it), Carl takes the opportunity presented by his imminent death to give his father a good talking to about the error of his ways, and encourage him to find a way to end the fighting and make peace with the Saviours so they can focus on building a better life.

So far, so good.

Like I said, Negan is all manner of awesome, but the whole Saviours plot got dull and repetitive an incredibly long time ago.

I was bored of it before Negan ever even made an appearance, and it’s not got better since.

We’re it not for the fact Negan himself is so charismatic and funny I’m not sure I’d still be watching the show AT ALL.

The other plots going on haven’t been doing it any favours either.

Morgan’s character arc is retreading very old ground that they already did (and did better) with Carol and Tyrese several years ago.

Ezekiel is a sanctimonious idiot, and the only good things to come out of his whole kingdom have been Shiva and Jerry.

The Henry plot is, yet again, retredding old and very tired ground, which the episode actually called attention to this week by having Carl mention it! So they know! They just don’t care.

I was DISTRAUGHT when they killed off Shiva, partly because having a tiger around was genuinely interesting and badass, and partly because I found her far more interesting than Ezekiel, who inexplicably survived the ordeal and went on to bore us with a lot of angst for a few episodes.

I’m also not buying into the Carol-Ezekiel romance.

They have zero chemistry and it’s entirely forced, for the love of god would someone put her and Daryl back together?

Between all of this and the nonsense with Hill Top, Jesus, and a few other minor characters, the only interesting things to happen in the last two years were Sasha’s undeath scene (and I literally mean that one scene when she comes out of the coffin, not everything that came before it), and Gabriel trying to get Negan to make his confession.

And that was only because Negan was in the scene and I have a slightly disturbing crush on him.

Daryl used to be my TWD crush, but he barely does anything at all anymore.

So when I say I was looking forward to the latest episode, it was in the forlorn hope that it was about to reboot the series into something genuinely interesting again.

I was really looking forward to Coral NOT dying.

And what does he do?

Shoots himself in the damn head!

Nice one, Coral, way to ruin your own plot twist.

Was he immune?

Would the virus actually have killed him?

WELL WE’LL NEVER KNOW NOW!

That the show is about to take a different turn seems inevitable, what with Rick promising to make Carl’s dream of unity and fluffy bunny rabbits real, but rather than being an epic reboot that makes it genius television once more, I have a feeling they have doomed us to another half season or more of utter banality.

It’s a new dawn, and dear god is it dull.

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Hazel Butler
Hazel is a Dark Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Author and freelance Writer from Cheshire, England. She runs The Write Copy Girl (www.thewritecopygirl.com) offering professional copywriting services to business owners. She is also a regular blogger on The Huffington Post and several other sites. Her books include Dark Urban Fantasy Novel Chasing Azrael (myBook.to/chasingazrael) and Dark Fantasy Novella Bleizgeist (myBook.to/bleizgeist).